Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Tyranny of Library Hierarchy

Republished with permission of the author, Shari, from Libsup-l (Wed 5/25/2005):

"The tyranny of library hierarchy. Alice Munro reflects on her youth among the stacks."

That was the teaser on CBC Radio One's *As it happens* this evening. Yesterday, at the Vancouver Public Library, (noted children's author) Alice Munro received the 2005 Terasen Lifetime Achievement Award.

During her acceptance speech Ms. Munro noted that all awards are wonderful, but there was still something she dreamt of doing. She had worked at the Hastings and Main library, and "most of the branch libraries" while she "settled in" to library work. Ms. Munro enjoyed her work there, but "there was a rule." When people came in and asked for books, she couldn't say that these books were over there, and books on that subject are over here, or show them where the books on Sir John A. MacDonald were. She had to say, "Would you please ask the librarian," and maybe they thought that it was best that librarians, who knew about books, should do this, rather than clerical staff, who knew about clerical. Ms. Munro said she didn't know very much about clerical, and that she was reprimanded when she would direct people herself.

What Ms. Munro would like is to come in to the library some day, and people would come up to her and ask her for a book, and she would say, "Yes, would you follow me, please."

"And if it could be arranged for me, that would be a treat."